Let me just say that I think this title is made of win. In the future, I’ll be adding the words “of doom” to the end of every new purchase I make. So, when I finally break down and buy a new laptop, I’ll say that I bought a new Macbook… of doom!
Doesn’t that just make things better?
Oh, and here’s a fun fact about this particular book… last week my sister was doing her usual cruise through the local used book store and found a few Goosebumps titles. She called me up, asked if I wanted one, and of course I said yes. Before hanging up, she told me that was going to buy “the one with the stupid-looking bird on the cover.”
Back Cover Blurb (with comments):
Don’t beat the clock! (That’s what she said)
Tara the Terrible. That’s what Michael Webster calls his bratty little sister. She loves getting Michael in trouble. Making his life miserable. Things couldn’t get any worse.
Then Mr. Webster brings home the antique cuckoo clock. It’s old. It’s expensive. And Mr. Webster won’t let anyone touch it.
Poor Michael. He should have listened to his dad.
Because someone put a spell on the block. A strange spell. A dangerous spell. And now Michael’s life will never be the same again.
(WTF is up with all. Those. Fragmented. Sentences? Is that supposed to be edgy or something? Don’t get me wrong–I’m acting like I’m too cool for it now, but I’m sure that my young mind was rocked. I probably tried to use it in an essay or something, assuming it was correct because I saw it in a book, then got a paper full of red marks. Thanks, Stine. Maybe that’s why I didn’t get into Dartmouth.)
We start off with our protagonist, Michael, getting hassled by his lame little sister, Tara. God, she’s annoying. She tries to pull some crap with Michael and his untied shoe, which he doesn’t actually fall for, though the trade-off is that he’s in a state of constant panic and/or suspicion because Tara delights in his misery.
Somehow this little fiasco ends with Michael’s mother yelling at him for bothering his little sister, to which I call a hardy, “Shenanigans!” In fact, Michael’s parents treat him like dog poo for pretty much the entire book, while acting as if Tara is an angel. Stine doesn’t mention this, but I think it’s implied that Michael was unplanned (and probably the reason they got married) and Tara was the kid they decided to have later to save the marriage. That’s just what I’m thinking.
Anyway, a second later, Dad comes in and announces that he’s got a big surprise! Two delivery guys come in and bring in a big-ass antique cuckoo clock, and Dad’s totally going apeshizz over it. It’s all antique-y and stuff, but for some reason, it also has extra buttons and dials, one of which even shows the year. Is that normal for a cuckoo clock?
During this scene, I imagined the part in “A Christmas Story” when that leg lamp arrives, such is the level of Mr. Webster’s hysteria. It seems that he’s been eyeing this clock for several years as it sat in the antique store across the street from his office. He’s been trying to talk the store owner into a lower price for a long time now, but finally purchased the clock because it was recently marked down. There’s some kind of flaw in it, but Mr. Webster can’t find it and so isn’t at all concerned.
Does anyone else think Mr. Webster sounds like a total cheap-ass? Seriously, if you wanted the damn clock so much, why don’t you just buy it? Apparently he’d rather spend years bargaining for it, rather than, idunno, saving up enough money.
Anyway, Michael’s all weirded-out by the creepy, yet realistic bird that comes out and screams, “Cuckoo!” every hour, on the hour. Somehow this translates into Michael’s sister teasing and pinching him, then Michael’s parents getting on to him for being mean to Tara.
Ugh. Assholes. And then Dad warns the kids to stay the eff away from the cuckoo clock, because it’s all expensive and what-not.
After dinner, Tara scares the crap out of Michael by crawling into the cuckoo clock (which apparently is more the size of a grandfather clock) and jumping out with a monster mask on. Dad hears Michael’s high-pitched screams and rushes in to see what’s the matter…
…with the cuckoo clock. He sees the open door and freaks out when Tara lies and says that Michael was trying to grab the cuckoo bird.
Because, you know, that’s exactly what a twelve-year-old boy would want to do, especially when he’s made it clear how creeped out he is by the clock in general.
Dad gives Michael some choice, parent-type words, and Tara sashays off like a little diva.
A few days later, Tara totally ruins Michael’s birthday. She scratches his brand-new bike, for one thing. And she tells this hot girl, Mona, that Michael really likes her (which is true, but STILL). And she walks around telling everybody what a mean big brother Michael is. And then she trips him and makes him fall face-first in his birthday cake.
Ugh. Mr. and Mrs. Webster? How about you put your gin-and-tonics down for about five minutes and do some GD parenting, mmmkay?
I’m going to go ahead and skip over all the shitty little things Tara does to Michael. It’s just so annoying. I know that they’re trying to establish what a mean little goblin she is, but seriously, we get it. Tara’s antics after the birthday party don’t enhance the story even one iota. It’s just more of the same crap, with Tara being weirdly evil and Michael being understandably baffled.
But all is not lost. Finally Michael has had it with Tara, so he’s decided to strike back. Oh, but how? Well, it turns out that the little monster just can’t stay away from the cuckoo clock. She’s even been caught playing with the clock hands, but of course didn’t really get in much trouble for it.
Michael figures that if he can do something really awful to the clock, Tara will be blamed for it since she already has a history of fucking with it. That night, after everyone else is asleep, he sneaks down, grabs the bird as it cuckoos, and twists its head backwards so that Dad will get pissed off at Tara.
Not a bad plan, actually. I didn’t realize you could twist a mechanical bird’s head around without breaking something, but whatever.
The next morning, Michael’s ready for his sweet, sweet revenge…
Except, weirdly, Mom and Dad seem to think that it’s his birthday. Again.
Weird. But Michael figures that it’s his birthday wish finally going into effect. Right before that bitch, Tara, made him fall into his cake, Michael wished that he could re-live his birthday, and now his wish has come true!
Except his re-birthday is just as shitty as the original one. That night, Michael goes to sleep ready to put the whole thing behind him. That’s all well and good until a little later, when his mother mentions that he’s got two more days until (you guessed it) his birthday.
Michael thinks this is hella lame. He finally figures out that it’s the cuckoo clock that’s doing it–something about making the bird look backward made time start to go backwards… or something. He goes downstairs to turn the bird’s head forward again, but then finds that the clock isn’t there anymore. Oops!
But since the clock isn’t there anymore, then wouldn’t that mean he never got a chance to turn it’s head back, since we’re technically traveling back in time? I’m confused. I’m just going to go ahead and use Terminator logic and assume that basically somehow it worked out, though I’m still left wondering how we’re technically traveling backwards, though Michael experiences the day itself in normal order.
Ugh, whatever. Suspension of disbelief, right? Why draw the line at a minor time travel glitch when I’m already buying into a story-line with magic cuckoo clocks?
Well, Michael’s in a bit of a k-hole now, stuck re-living past events and trying to figure out a way out of this hellish existence. He tries to tell his parents about it, but to no avail. They even play a joke on him and start talking backwards, then laugh their asses off when he starts to panic.
Bastards. There’s nothing like conspiring against a single member of the family to make him or her put you in a crappy nursing home when you’re old.
A few days pass. Then one morning Michael goes to school and finds that he’s suddenly much younger, a third-grader, in fact. It seems that time is going backwards at a much faster rate now. After school, Michael goes home and isn’t at all surprised to find that Tara is now a toddler, but still incredibly evil. Go figure.
The next day, Michael is a second-grader again. After school, he takes the bus down to the antique store by Dad’s office to fix the cuckoo clock situation. Unfortch, there’s a sign on the door that reads “Gone for Vacation”–and who knows how much younger he’ll be if he waits another day?
Mike decides that it’s time for a little B&E. He grabs a brick, raises it over his head…
Then gets stopped by his father, who noticed his unattended 8-year-old in the street. He tries to tell Dad about the clock, but of course Dad totally ignores him.
The next morning, Michael wakes up and he’s five-years-old now. He goes downstairs for breakfast and notices that the malevolent force that is Tara is absent, because she hasn’t been born yet. Sweet! But life as a five-year-old ain’t that great… You spend an inordinate amount of time going to kindergarten and/or being taught how to tie your shoes, which can get pretty boring.
The next morning, Mikey is four-years-old. Did time start phasing back more slowly now? I don’t get it. The day before yesterday he lost three years, now he only loses one?
Whatever. He’s four, goes to nursery school, gets beat up by Mona, and breaks his arm climbing a tree.
The following day, he wakes up with his arm intact, but now he’s a little baby (I’m guessing he’s around one-and-a-half or so) stuck in his crib and forced to drink nasty formula out of a bottle. He makes it sound gross, but I think Michael should just be grateful that he doesn’t have to breast-feed. How much therapy would a twelve-year-old boy need after that? Lots, I’m guessing.
Overall, being a baby sucks. Michael’s mom takes him to visit Daddy for lunch, and Michael gets to hear all about how Dad suspects he might be a slow developer because he’s not saying as many words as Ted What’s-His-Name’s kid. Ugh. What a bastard.
After lunch, the family stops by the antique store. What luck! While his parents are having a totally irrelevant and inappropriate argument about whether or not to buy an ugly kitchen table, Michael seizes his chance. He manages to pull a chair to the clock as it cuckoos and turns the head back around to where it should be, then also re-sets the year dial back to the present day.
In a flash of blinding light, Michael finds himself back to his birthday, where his shiny and totally non-scratched bike is waiting for him! Sweet!
He asks Mom and Dad where Tara is, and they have no idea who he’s talking about. Even her room is empty.
Later, thinking maybe he did something wrong with the cuckoo clock, Michael checks the year-dial and finds that, interestingly enough, the clock lacks a 1988. That means that they totally skipped the year that Tara was born, meaning that she never existed.
At the end of the book, Michael decides that he’ll find some way to travel back in time to get Tara back… you know, someday. If he feels like it.
To that, all I can say is: AWESOME. He’s actually going to let his little sister cease to exist. Seriously! How delightfully amoral.
So I tied my shoe. Big deal!
“Honey!” Mom called. “Mikey tied his shoe–all by himself!”
“Hey!” Dad cried happily… “That’s my big boy!”
This time I saw him mouth to Mom: “Took him long enough!”
Seriously, Dad? How about we follow every new accomplishment that you achieve with a similar sentiment? I bet you’d be crying in the bathroom in no time.
The Moral of the Story:
It’s ok to kill your annoying younger sibling, so long as you do it in such a way as to make it impossible to face criminal charges. Time travel would be the preferred method for this.